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Rivalry Week: What it means for…

Nick Saban AP

Rivalry Week is at once the best and worst of times for college football fans.

At its best, this extended weekend wrapped around the Thanksgiving holiday offers up a litany of games that mean something beyond conference or BCS implications, giving all fan bases something just as meaty and satisfying: bragging rights and pride, especially when it’s an in-state rival humbled in defeat on the opposing sideline.  At its worst, however, this weekend means that yet another college football season is quickly wrapping up, with just a handful of regular season games remaining to go along with conference championship games and bowls.

There are, though, the obvious implications beyond just bragging rights and pride.  Myriad implications, from conference races to BCS placement to the chase for the 2013 Heisman Trophy.

So, with that as the backdrop, here’s a look at the marquee matchups for Week 14 and the potential implications the outcomes of the games could/would/should have on all fronts.

No. 1 Alabama at No. 4 Auburn
“The Mother of All Iron Bowls” indeed.  The stunning turnaround by Auburn under Gus Malzahn — from 3-9, 0-8 last season to 10-1, 6-1 in 2013 — has nearly overshadowed Alabama’s quest for three straight BCS titles and four in five years .  Who would’ve thought, prior to September, that this year’s version of the Iron Bowl would carry more conference and national weight than Alabama’s games against Texas A&M and LSU combined?  Certainly not anyone who doesn’t end their prayers with “War Damn Eagle!”  Speaking of a Higher Football Power, the last four Iron Bowl winners have gone on to win the BCS championship.

What it means for…
… the SEC: Everything, at least as far as the West is concerned.  It’s a winner-take-all battle, with the victor staking its claim to the divisional title and a spot in the conference championship game against either Missouri or South Carolina.  The Tide would earn a share of the divisional title even with a loss, although, obviously, the head-to-head tiebreaker would go to the Tigers with a win.
… the BCS: An Alabama win keeps the No. 1 Tide on its year-long inside track for one of the two spots in the BCS title game.  Even with a loss, Alabama would be a near-shoe-in for an at-large berth in a BCS bowl, although that wouldn’t be clarified until after the conference championship game.  The same could be said for Auburn, which would get serious consideration for an at-large bid despite an Iron Bowl loss.
… the Heisman: Thanks to the missteps of others in Week 13, AJ McCarron has suddenly vaulted into the No. 2 position behind Florida State’s Jameis Winston in the eyes of both the voters and the oddsmakers.  A strong performance on a national stage would most certainly keep the Tide quarterback toward the top of the conversation and, depending on how the Winston off-field situation plays out, could send him hurtling toward front-runner status.

No. 2 Florida State at Florida
To say that the Sunshine State rivalry has lost some luster for this year’s game would be an understatement.  While Florida State is more than holding up its end of the bargain — nationally-ranked and seemingly predestined for a shot at the crystal — Florida enters the game armed with an embattled head coach and a six-game losing streak that’s the program’s worst since 1979.  The Gators won last year in Tallahassee, although the Seminoles are four-touchdown favorites this year in The Swamp.  While his boss continues to back him, Will Muschamp directing an embarrassing blowout loss in Gainesville could force Jeremy Foley to reconsider that very strident public support.

What it means for…
… the ACC/SEC: Literally nothing for either conference.  FSU has already locked up the Atlantic division’s spot in the ACC championship game, while UF was long ago eliminated from SEC East contention.
… the BCS: For a team that’s outscored its opponents 402-65 the past seven games, this game would appear to be nothing more than a worn-down speed bump on its inexorable march to the BCS title game.  Seemingly the only thing standing between the Seminoles and an early-January date in the Rose Bowl is a win over the Gators as well as an ACC championship game in which they will be prohibitive favorites regardless of which team comes out of the Coastal.
… the Heisman: For Jameis Winston, the Heisman is his for the taking — provided he doesn’t trip over himself the next two weeks and, more importantly, the investigation into an alleged sexual assault doesn’t give him bigger things to worry about than a fumbled trophy.

No. 3 Ohio State at Michigan
Michigan has stumbled through a disappointing season with a 7-4 record that could easily be sub-.500 were it not for a couple of escapes against vastly inferior opponents.  At the other end of the spectrum is Ohio State, riding a nation’s best 23-game winning streak.  In fact, the Buckeyes set a school record last weekend, surpassing the 22-game streak of the 1967-69 squads.  The team that snapped the previous mark?  The 7-2 Wolverines in Ann Arbor, of course.  When it comes to The Game, you just never ever know  — especially when a heavy home underdog is involved.

What it means for…
… the Big Ten: As is the case for the game above this one, absolutely nothing.  Not only have the Buckeyes already clinched the Leaders division, they also already know they will face Legends winner Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game next weekend in Indianapolis.  Thanks to NCAA sanctions last year, OSU will be making its first-ever appearance in the conference title game.
… the BCS: If Ohio State has any shot at a BCS title, they have to hope either Alabama or Florida State loses once the next two weekends.  Outside of the crystal title game, they could also earn an automatic BCS bowl bid with two more wins, or perhaps an at-large bid with a loss in the Big Ten title game.  Either way, their BCS future won’t be decided until next weekend, although it could certainly take a significant at-large hit with a loss this weekend.
… the Heisman: When it comes to the Buckeyes and stiff-armed talk, “what if” is certainly in play.  Braxton Miller entered the 2013 season as the Heisman front-runner, but an injury that cost him a pair of September games knocked him completely off the radar.  Thanks to the stumbles of others, the quarterback is back on at least the periphery of the discussion, although it would take something monumental to once again make the junior a serious contender.  Perhaps Carlos Hyde, he of the three-game suspension to start the year, could make a late push?  Doubtful, but, as the last couple of weeks have shown, anything is possible when it comes to the most prestigious award in college football.

No. 6 Clemson at No. 10 South Carolina
Stated simply, South Carolina has owned this rivalry of late with wins each of the past four years, with none coming by less than 10 points.  Steve Spurrier has Dabo Swinney‘s number and is not shy about letting people know about it, which is part and parcel of why this is such a tremendous non-conference rivalry.

What it means for…
… the ACC/SEC: Clemson’s chances at an Atlantic division title went down in flames in the midst of a 37-point beatdown at the hands of Florida State in mid-October.  If Missouri loses to Texas A&M, South Carolina will represent the East in the SEC championship game.
… the BCS: The Gamecocks’ lone opportunity for a BCS bowl rests in securing the SEC’s automatic bid via a conference championship.  If Florida State does indeed make the BCS title game, the Tigers are primed to replace the Seminoles in the Orange Bowl and insert the 70-33 jokes here.
… the Heisman: You would think that Tajh Boyd would be in the thick of the Heisman conversation.  The Clemson quarterback’s not, and I don’t have a clue as to why.

No. 25 Notre Dame at No. 8 Stanford
While it’s hardly on par with Notre Dame-USC, Notre Dame-Stanford has evolved into quite the entertaining rivalry the past several years.  Of the past nine games played, six have been decided by eight points or less.  The Irish own a 6-3 edge during that span, including an overtime win in South Bend last season en route to the BCS championship game.

What it means for…
… the Pac-12: The North division’s game of hot potato continued — and ultimately ended — last week thanks to Oregon’s lopsided loss to Arizona, handing the division title and a spot in the conference title game to Stanford.  The Cardinal will (likely) travel a week later to South winner Arizona State for a game that will decide the league’s automatic BCS berth.  If the Sun Devils lose to the same Wildcats that dumped the Ducks, the Cardinal would play host.
… the BCS: The Irish have no chance to move into the top-14 of the final BCS rankings necessary to qualify them for an at-large BCS bid.  If the Cardinal entertain any hope of qualifying for a fourth straight BCS bowl, they will need to win the conference; a third loss, whether it be this week or next, would effectively eliminate them from at-large contention.

No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 5 Missouri
One year after Texas A&M exploded onto the SEC scene in wildly-entertaining fashion, the Aggies have been reduced to playing the role of spoiler to a fellow former Big 12 member.  Playing the role of 2012 A&M is Missouri, which enters Week 14 with something the Aggies of a year ago didn’t: an opportunity to claim its first SEC divisional crown.

What it means for…
… the SEC: The conference scenario for Mizzou is very simple and straightforward.  Win, and the Tigers are in the SEC championship game as the East’s representative.  Lose and they’re out, replaced by South Carolina.
… the BCS: With three losses on their current résumé, there’s no need to use “A&M” and “BCS bowl” in the same sentence, unless it’s separated by “won’t be in a.”  Just as it was for its conference scenario, Mizzou’s BCS dreams are very simple and straightforward: win this weekend… win next weekend… and they’re in as the SEC’s automatic bid.  Lose at any point the next two weeks, and the Tigers will (very likely) be sitting outside the BCS window looking in.
… the Heisman: Johnny Manziel made significant repeat strides in the eyes of those who passionately follow the Heisman the last several weeks before a damaging performance against LSU seemingly knocked him out of contention.  Of course, based on how the stiff-armed landscape has drastically shifted the past couple of weeks, a resurgent performance against a high-quality opponent could put the reigning Heisman winner right back in the conversation.

Texas Tech at Texas
No. 9 Baylor at TCU
The most interesting aspect of this pair of games is how Baylor responds to an embarrassing and devastating loss.  In firm control of the Big 12 race entering Week 13 and with a BCS title game appearance a possibility, the Bears’ loss to Oklahoma State all but ruined what was a once-promising season.  A loss to the Cowboys the previous week, oddly enough, also cost Texas control of its own destiny in the conference.

What it means for…
… the Big 12: Here are the scenarios for each of the one-loss teams currently tied atop the Big 12 standings and what they need to happen to claim the conference crown.

  • Oklahoma State: a win over Oklahoma in Bedlam Dec. 7 coming off a bye week, regardless of what Baylor or Texas do and based on head-to-head wins over both.
  • Baylor: an OSU loss, plus wins over TCU and Texas.
  • Texas: an OSU loss, plus wins over Texas Tech and Baylor.

… the BCS: For both Baylor and Texas, their BCS bowl odds are long.  Each needs an Oklahoma State loss in order to claim the Big 12’s automatic berth as neither will be in play for an at-large bid, although there’s an asterisk when it comes to that absolute –there are a couple of scenarios that could get BU in as an at-large, although they are longshots at best and pipe dreams at worst.

No. 24 Duke at North Carolina
Will the shoe fit, or will the clock strike midnight on Duke’s Cinderella season?  The Blue Devils are in the midst of a historic campaign, with nine wins tying the school record set in 1941 and the opportunity to reach double digits for the first time since the program began playing football back in 1922.  They’ve qualified for a bowl game in back-to-back seasons for the first time ever.  Simply put, Duke is one of the best stories of the 2013 season.  Whether the Blue Devils cap their fairy-tale story with a divisional crown remains to be seen.

What it means for…
… the ACC: If Duke beats North Carolina, which has won five straight after beginning the season 1-5, the Blue Devils will stake their claim to their first-ever ACC Coastal title.  If not?  A five-way tie between Duke (5-2), Virginia Tech (4-3), Miami (4-3), Georgia Tech (5-3) and North Carolina (4-3) is a possibility, although only the first four remain alive in the divisional race.  So, if Duke loses and all Coastal hell breaks loose, here’s what each team would need in order to secure the spot as Florida State’s sacrificial lamb in the ACC championship game.

  • Duke: a win over North Carolina; cannot win the division with a loss.
  • Virginia Tech: a Duke loss, plus a win over Virginia.
  • Miami: a Duke loss, a Virginia Tech loss, plus a win over Pittsburgh.
  • Georgia Tech (ACC slate complete): a Duke loss, a Virginia Tech loss, a Miami loss.

… the BCS: Whichever team survives the Coastal chaos and represents the division in the division in the ACC championship technically has an opportunity to secure an automatic BCS bid.  Realistically, none of the four teams with a chance to win the Coastal has any type of shot at upsetting the Seminoles in Charlotte.

USF at No. 19 UCF
How little respect does UCF get?  The Knights, whose lone loss on the season came by three points to No. 10 South Carolina, are ranked by the coaches three spots behind a one-loss Louisville team that UCF beat on the road.  Obviously the lack of respect for the AAC as a whole is playing a significant role, but it doesn’t change the fact that George O’Leary‘s squad deserves better treatment in the polls than what they’ve been getting.

What it means for…
… the AAC: A win by UCF pushes its conference record to 7-0 and clinches the AAC regardless of what the Knights do a week later against SMU.  Louisville’s conference title hopes remain alive but on life support, with the Cardinals needing two UCF losses as well as a win of their own Dec. 5 at Cincinnati.
… the BCS: The AAC receives an automatic BCS bid, so a conference crown for UCF also means a guaranteed spot at the BCS table, with the chair likely coming in the Sugar Bowl against an SEC foe.

No. 16 Fresno State at San Jose State
This game is all about the scenarios and possibilities, which appear below.

What it means for…
… the MWC: Fresno State has already clinched the West and will represent that division in the MWC championship game.  The Bulldogs will face Utah State for the league title if the Aggies beat Wyoming Saturday, Boise State — based on the head-to-head tiebreaker with USU — if the Broncos beat New Mexico and the Aggies lose.
… the BCS: If Fresno State can win out, they will battle Northern Illinois for what should be the lone BCS bowl berth for a non-automatic qualifying conference member.  In order for a non-AQ to qualify for an at-large bid, it needs to finish in the top-16 of the final BCS rankings and ahead of the lowest-ranked AQ conference winner (No. 19 UCF in this case); the Huskies leapfrogged the Bulldogs in last week’s rankings and are now at No. 14, while Fresno sits at No. 16.  Whichever of those two teams finish ranked higher in the final BCS standings, provided it’s in the top-16 and ahead of (presumably) UCF, will grab the non-AQ berth and a spot in the Fiesta Bowl.
… the Heisman: Derek Carr is one of the most prolific passers in the country, ranking first in total offense and passing touchdowns and second in passing yards.  Up until this week, however, he’s barely been a part of the Heisman discussion.  Thanks to the shortcomings of others he’s now in the mix, although it should never have taken others tripping up for that to happen.

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No. 25 UCLA avoids double overtime scare in Boulder

Brett Hundley, Paul Perkins, Nate Iese, Greg Henderson

On Saturday afternoon in Boulder, Colorado No. 25 UCLA (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12) was unable to deal a knockout blow to Colorado (2-6, 0-5 Pac-12), but the Bruins found a way to a victory in double overtime. UCLA had a 24-7 lead on the Buffalos in the second quarter but had to hang on to a 40-37 victory to pick up a bowl-eligibility clinching win on the road. Brett Hundley‘s eight-yard touchdown run in the second overtime gave UCLA the hard-fought victory.

Hundley also passed for 200 yards and rushed for 110 yards with two combined touchdowns to lead UCLA to the victory. Paul Perkins broke some big runs early in the game and ended the day leading all players with 180 rushing yards and two touchdowns as well.

The Bruins scored a late touchdown in the third quarter to pad its halftime lead, but Colorado scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to push UCLA to the final whistle. Myles Jack was inserted at running back as UCLA needed to punch the ball across the goal line in the third quarter. Jack has been used sparingly this season, but his 16th rushing attempt of the year led to his second touchdown of the year. It could not have come at a better time for UCLA, as he ran right through a would-be-tackler for the touchdown on the outside.

Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau tossed each of this two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, each being caught by Bryce Bobo. That kept hope alive, but it was the defense that really provided life in the fourth quarter by stopping UCLA twice on a late drive. The first stop on third down ended up having the drive extended with a roughing the passer penalty to allow UCLA a free 15-yards and a first down to retain possession. Colorado held the Bruins once more, this time stuffing a fourth down and short play with three minutes to play. UCLA tried handing off to Eddie Vanderdoes out of a timeout on fourth and short, but Colorado played it perfectly for the stop.

Colorado then went to work on offense, methodically moving downfield into field goal range. While coming up short of a go-ahead touchdown, the Buffs settled for a game-tying field goal off the leg of Will Oliver from 35 yards.

The overtime was brought to a stop as UCLA was driving closer to the end zone. The game was paused for a while after the helmet of Colorado defensive back Tedric Thompson banged into the knee of a UCLA player. The impact left Thompson on the ground for an extended period of time before being placed on a stretcher and carted off the field while being consoled by a Colorado trainer or member of the medical staff. The defense pulled through for a stop on the first two plays after play resumed, holding UCLA to a field goal. Colorado answered on their first overtime possession with a long field goal to force a second overtime. After Colorado kicked a second field goal to take a 37-34 lead, Hundley answered with two good runs on the ensuing possession to seal the win.

So where does UCLA go from here? The Bruins are still well behind the pack in the College Football Playoff hunt, which may be out of reach the rest of the way. UCLA will host Arizona next week in one of many key Pac-12 South match-ups the rest of the way. The Bruins also still have to play at Washington and at home against USC and Stanford. The Pac-12 South is still up for grabs, and the Bruins should have enough pieces to make a run for it, but they will have to play a better game moving forward than they did against Colorado.

Colorado sinks to 0-5 in Pac-12 play and is now on the brink of missing out on postseason eligibility. With six losses, one more and Colorado will be ineligible for postseason play for a seventh straight season. Colorado’s last bowl season was 2007.

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Big plays, turnovers push No. 10 TCU to 37-20 halftime lead over Texas Tech

Texas Tech v TCU

Texas Tech had done it. More than a quarter into their visit to No. 10 TCU and already trailing 24-17, the Texas Tech defense had forced its first punt.

Facing a fourth-and-7 from the Texas Tech 38, Gary Patterson pulled out a fake punt, and Red Raider defender Justis Nelson was flagged for interfering with Josh Doctson on a pass by punter Ethan Perry that may or may not have been catchable. One play later, Trevone Boykin found Deante’ Gray for a 24-yard touchdown pass and TCU grabbed a 31-17 lead.

It’s been that kind of day as the Horned Frogs and Red Raiders have combined for 84 snaps, 30 first downs, 655 yards from scrimmage and 57 points as TCU leads 37-20 at the break.

Aside from a defense that has obviously struggled to stop the Horned Frogs’ offense, Davis Webb hasn’t the cause much with one interception and two lost fumbles – on Texas Tech’s last two possessions of the half – leading to 13 TCU points.

Trevone Boykin has missed on nearly half his passes (14-of-27) but made his completions count, going for 199 yards and three touchdowns. The big play combination of Kolby Listenbee and Josh Doctson have combined for six grabs for 137 yards and two touchdowns, and Aaron Green has added six rushes for 105 yards and a touchdown.

Webb has posted good numbers, 14-of-26 passing for 286 yards and two scores, but negated much of it with his trio of giveaways. DeAndre Washington has found space in the middle of TCU’s defense, rushing eight times for 64 yards with a long of 48, while Webb’s two touchdown passes have come on plays of 57 (to Kenny Williams) and 56 (to Devin Lauderdale) yards.

After scoring 10 points in the game’s first three minutes and 12 seconds and 17 in the first quarter, the Red Raiders managed only a 38-yard Ryan Bustin field goal in the second quarter.

TCU will receive the ball to open the second half.

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No. 1 Bulldogs lead Kentucky 17-10 at halftime despite slow start

Dak Prescott

The Mississippi State Bulldogs are playing their very first game as the nation’s No. 1 overall team. How the program reacted to the pressure of being the nation’s top team would be a telling sign as the Bulldogs progressed this season.

Despite the team’s newfound success, the Bulldogs didn’t dominate the first half of Saturday’s game as expected. The Kentucky Wildcats are still within striking distance. The Bulldogs hold a 17-10 lead, and Kentucky has outplayed Mississippi State at times.

“We’re playing a little sloppy, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen told CBS before going into the locker room at halftime. “We need to clean it up. We need to play a lot better in the second half.”

Mullen built a winning program due to winning in the trenches and riding the team’s dual-threat quarterback, Dak Prescott.

Kentucky matched Mississippi State along the offensive and defensive lines. Where the Wildcats have been found lacking is at the quarterback position.

Prescott, who may be the favorite to win this year’s Heisman Trophy, was 10-of-17 passing for 111 yards and a late interception. Where he made a difference was running the football. The quarterback leads Mississippi State with 43 rushing yards and a touchdown. His ability to make big plays as a runner makes the Bulldogs dangerous even when the offense isn’t firing on all cylinders (see: below).

Mark Stoops‘ defense has done a tremendous job containing the Bulldogs for the most part. Outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Bud Sasser have proven to be thorns in the side of Prescott. The majority of Mississippi State’s 114 rushing yards have come up the middle.

Meanwhile, Mississippi State’s imposing defense surrendered 193 total yards to an erratic Wildcats offense. The big play came when Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles connected with wide receiver Demarco Robinson on a short out pattern which became a long 67-yard touchdown thanks to the senior’s ability to tiptoe down the sideline.

Otherwise, Towles is 8-of-17 passing for only 75 yards.

As the second half approaches, Kentucky needs to maintain its intensity on defense while attempting to get more out of its running game to take pressure off Towles. But it’s far more likely Mississippi State’s superior talent will eventually take over despite coasting through the first two quarters.

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West Virginia punches first, OK State punches back; No. 22 WVU leads 14-10 at the half

Kevin White

No. 22 West Virginia looked like it was going to walk into Stillwater and come away with an easy victory. Seven minutes and 11 seconds into the game, the Mountaineers led 14-0 and quarterback Clint Trickett was making it look easy, hitting Kevin White for a 19-yard score and Mario Alford for a 79-yard catch-and-dash.

And then… it all stopped.

Oklahoma State stopped taking punches and then landed a few of its own, notching a 40-yard Ben Grogan field goal a minute into the second quarter and an eight-yard scoring strike from Daxx Garman to Teddy Johnson midway through the frame to bring us to our 14-10 halftime score.

West Virginia has been conservative, almost too conservative, carrying the ball 19 times for 85 yards while Trickett has hit 10-of-15 throws for 165 yards and those two scores. Wendell Smallwood has the bulk of West Virginia’s ground yards, carrying 11 times for 80 yards. Glenn Spencer’s defense has mostly bottled up All-America candidate White, limiting him to just one grab for four yards other than the touchdown.

Garman has completed 14-of-23 passes for 176 yards with a touchdown and a pick, while the Cowboys have accumulated 123 rushing yards through a committee of Brandon Shepard (one rush, 51 yards), Tyreek Hill (nine for 45) and Desmond Roland (nine for 34).

West Virginia will receive the ball to open the second half.

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Wolverines (somewhat) hanging with ‘little brother’ Sparty at halftime

Michigan v Michigan State

It’s not the embarrassment it’s been most of this season, but it’s still yet another first-half deficit for Michigan.

On a sun-splashed afternoon in East Lansing, Michigan State jumped out to a 7-0 first-quarter lead en route to a 14-3 lead after two quarters of play.  Jeremy Langford was responsible for both Spartan touchdowns, a two-yard run less than four minutes into the game and a one-yarder with :21 remaining in the half.

As has been the case the past couple/few seasons, though, it was the Sparty defense that set the stifling tone for the game.

Through the first 30 minutes, MSU had allowed its “big brother” to total just 37 yards of offense.  The Wolverines were held to minus-five yards rushing on its 10 attempts, an average of -0.5 yards per carry.

Conversely, and even as the scoreboard doesn’t quite indicate it, Sparty’s offense had little problem moving the ball either on the ground or through the air.  MSU was able to muster 256 yards of offense, 157 passing and 99 rushing.

Langford had 77 of those rushing yards, while quarterback Connor Cook was an efficient 110-of-17 passing.

UM has now trailed at the half in four of its previous six games; just once, against Penn State two weeks ago, were they able to come from behind to win.  Short of the kind of comeback that’s been atypical this season, the temperature underneath Brady Hoke‘s coaching seat will do nothing by rise at game’s end.

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Pitt fumbles way to deep first-quarter deficit vs. GT

Hot potato

And I mean that quite literally.

In a span of eight minutes and 30 seconds at the start of the first quarter of its game against Georgia Tech, Pitt fumbled five times… and lost all five fumbles.  Quarterback Chad Voytik and wide receiver Tyler Boyd were responsible for two apiece.

The first three lost fumbles came on the first five plays from scrimmage for the Panthers.

The five lost fumbles in a single quarter ties the FBS record set by East Carolina (1980 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette) and San Diego State (1982 vs. Cal).  Pitt has a ways to go before tying or breaking the single-game record of 10 set by Wake Forest in a 1969 game against Florida State.

The Yellow Jackets, incidentally, scored four touchdowns after the first four fumbles, and did so on just nine plays.

As of this posting, Tech is maintaining a 28-7 lead.  And, with just under nine minutes left in the second quarter, Pitt has gone nearly 11 minutes without losing a fumble, so they have that going for them, which is nice.

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Mother of Les Miles passed away Friday night

LSU v Auburn

Sadly, Les Miles will be coaching with a heavy heart Saturday night.

Friday night, a school spokesperson confirmed to Ross Dellenger of the Baton Rouge Advocate, the mother of the LSU head coach, 91-year-old Martha, has passed away.  No cause of death has been released.

Despite the loss, Miles is still in Baton Rouge and will be on the sidelines when LSU squares of against No. 3 Ole Miss.  He even appeared on ESPN‘s College GameDay pregame show this morning, but there was no mention of his mother’s passing.

Miles’ father, Bubba, died in 2000.  A car accident in April of 2011 claimed the life of Miles’ 54-year-old sister Ann Hope Browne.

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to Miles for his loss.

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No. 25 UCLA jumps out early, but Colorado making things interesting

Paul Perkins, Caleb Benenoch

UCLA wasted no time in taking a lead on Colorado. Paul Perkins got the scoring started early in the first quarter with a 92-yard touchdown run on the second play from scrimmage for the Bruins offense, following an offensive holding penalty.From there, the race was on for the Bruins, who lead Colorado 24-14 at the halftime break.

Brett Hundley has thrown for 105 yards and a touchdown so far, including a 20-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Payton in the first quarter. Perkins would add a 24-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to help keep UCLA in front with a double-digit lead at the break. Colorado has made things a little interesting by finding success against the UCLA defense though. Tony Jones and Michael Adkins II each has a rushing touchdown for Colorado, and both have combined for 98 rushing yards so far.

UCLA snuck back into the top 25 this week, but may have to put together a stronger second half in order to convince enough voters to keep them there tomorrow.

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Illinois hands Minnesota first Big Ten loss

Illinois (4-4, 1-3 Big Ten) may want to wear their gray alternate uniforms more often after today. The Illini rallied in the second half after it appeared the game had slipped away from them to hand Minnesota (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) its first loss in conference play this season. V’Angelo Bentley returned a Minnesota fumble 12 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown to give Illinois a 28-24 lead. It proved to be the game-winning score.

Minnesota outscored Illinois 21-7 in the third quarter to take a 24-21 lead on the Illini, but the Gophers proved incapable of holding on to the narrow lead. After taking its first lead late in the third quarter, Minnesota missed a field goal, had a lost fumble returned for a touchdown, punted, and lost another fumble on their following offensive drive sin the fourth quarter. All of this while forcing Illinois to punt on five straight possessions in the second half.

The final punt from Illinois came in the final seconds, which appeared to end with time running off the clock on the return. This led to a celebration by the Illini on the field, but the Big Ten refs threw a flag for defensive holding on the return. This gave Minnesota one untimed down to run a play, but it resulted in a deep pass falling out of play to end the game.

Minnesota let this one get away from them. The Gophers out-gained Illinois in total offensive yards, 411-263. The Gophers had three turnovers, with the one being returned for a touchdown. It took far too long for Minnesota to get the running game going with David Cobb not hitting his stride until it may have been too late. Cobb rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns, but was stymied for much of the game before getting going. Quarterback Mitch LeidnerL was not particularly sharp either, completing just 12 of his 30 pass attempts for 240 yards and a touchdown and interception.

With the loss, Minnesota drops into a first-place tie with Nebraska in the Big Ten West with identical 3-1 conference records. Minnesota will play at Nebraska on November 22. Minnesota is already eligible for postseason play, which is good. The last leg of the season could be brutal for Minnesota, and a loss to Illinois was not necessarily in the plans.

Illinois is two wins shy of clinching postseason eligibility as well. Next week Illinois plays at Ohio State.

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Abdullah runs for 225 yards and 3 TDs as No. 16 Huskers pound Rutgers

Rutgers v Nebraska

Nebraska and Rutgers playing a Big Ten conference game was weird to see. Watching Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah run wild over an overpowered defense was nothing out of the ordinary though. Abdullah added to his Heisman Trophy profile by rushing for 225 yards and three touchdowns as No. 16 Nebraska (7-1, 3-1 Big Ten) blew away Rutgers (5-3, 1-3 Big Ten) by a final score of 42-24.

Nebraska’s victory over Rutgers was fueled by Abdullah, but he had a supporting cast doing its part as well. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong passed for 163 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Kenny Bell led Nebraska with 63 receiving yards. Abdullah was the story of the game though, turning in the second highest rushing total of his career. Abdullah rushed for a career-high 232 yards in week one of the season against Florida Atlantic. His 225 yards Saturday afternoon tied the second-highest mark of his career.

Rutgers put up a fight early on. A Gary Nova completion over the middle to Leonte Carroo turned a medium gain for a first down into a 71-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-7 late in the first quarter. Nebraska responded in a big way by scoring two touchdowns off big runs by Abdullah to take a 21-7 lead into the half. Nebraska would later take a 35-17 lead to the fourth quarter, keeping the visiting Scarlet Knights at arm’s length the rest fo the way.

Nebraska only had three more rushing attempts than Rutgers, but Nebraska averaged 7.1 yards per rushing attempt to the 3.8 averaged by Rutgers. Nebraska also ended the game with 149 more rushing yards. Abdullah rushing for touchdowns from 53, 48 and 23 yards certainly helps inflate those numbers. Abdullah was quite the difference-maker.

Nebraska could very well be the favorite in the Big Ten West Division the rest of the way. Minnesota got a test on the road at Illinois today, but the Gophers remain in first place in the division with an uphill battle to climb the rest of the way. Nebraska will still have to play road games at Wisconsin and Iowa as well as a home game against Minnesota. Wisconsin and Iowa are still in the mix as well. Nebraska has a habit of winning nine games per year lately, so the Huskers are either going to break that trend this season or come stumbling down the finish line to the season in spectacular fashion. As long as Abdullah stays healthy and Nebraska keeps feeding his Heisman campaign, these Huskers could be rolling to the Big Ten championship game with double digits in the win column.

Rutgers is still one win shy of becoming bowl eligible in its first season in the Big Ten. Next is a home game against Wisconsin, with the Badgers coming off a pounding of Maryland in Madison. Rutgers will also host Indiana and finish the season on the road against Michigan State and Maryland. There could very well be a win to be had in there for Rutgers.

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No. 11 Kansas State does enough to stay perfect in Big 12

Jake Waters

When the sun comes up on Sunday, No. 11 Kansas State (6-1, 4-0 Big 12) will remain in first place in the Big 12. The Wildcats remain in control of the Big 12 after holding off Texas (3-5, 2-3 Big 12) on Saturday afternoon with a 23-0 victory over the Longhorns.

Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters put together a workmanlike performance, which is to be expected when discussing Kansas State in general. Waters completed 18 of 29 pass attempts for 219 yards. The numbers will not impress much, but the majority of those yards came in key third-down situations. Kansas State converted eight of 15 third-down conversion attempts in the game. This helped to milk as much clock as possible for Kansas State, with the Wildcats controlling the football for over 38 minutes. Everything about the way this game played out is what has made head coach Bill Snyder a College Football Hall of Fame candidate. The Wildcats will not dazzle with flashy play, but there are few teams that are as fundamentally well-rounded as Kansas State right now. The recipe may not work against programs like Florida State, Auburn or Oregon, but it works for Kansas State in the Big 12. This is all that will ultimately matter.

Kansas State also played a very clean game as well. The Wildcats were flagged just three times in the game and the offense did not lose the football. It also helped to have a dependable kicker with Matthew McCrane successfully sending all three of his field goal attempts through the goal posts. Early on, this came in handy as Kansas State was stopped by Texas inside the red zone. Kansas State’s defense held Texas to just 198 yards of total offense too. This is Kansas State football.

Kansas State will host Oklahoma State next weekend before heading to TCU for what could be a pivotal match-up in the Big 12 race coming down the stretch. The Wildcats also have a road trip to West Virginia and a season-ending road trip to Baylor to come as well. It is still premature to suggest Kansas State is the favorite to win the Big 12 at this point. The conference is very much up for grabs for a few teams right now, including TCU, West Virginia and Baylor.

Texas is, without question, far from being in the hunt for the Big 12 championship. This afternoon’s loss drops the Longhorns to 2-3 in Big 12 play with four games to play. The goal now should be to scratch together three more wins to become bowl-eligible. Texas has played in a postseason bowl game every season but two since the formation of the Big 12 in 1997. Charlie Strong is in danger of becoming just the second Texas coach since Edwin Price in 1951 not to lead Texas to a bowl game in his first year on the job. Texas plays at Texas Tech next week and still has West Virginia, Oklahoma State and TCU on the schedule. Two losses and Texas will be staying home this offseason.

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Kentucky’s Stanley Williams not cleared to play against No. 1 Mississippi State

Kentucky v LSU

The Kentucky Wildcats will face the No. 1 Mississippi State Bulldogs this afternoon without one of their most potent offensive weapons.

Freshman running back Stanley Williams suffered a concussion last Saturday against the LSU Tigers. He didn’t return to the game nor did he practice all week.

Williams announced on twitter that he won’t be available for today’s contest:

The 5-9, 200-pound running back was third on the team with 222 rushing yards. The talented freshman averaged 7.4 yards each time he ran the ball, though.

Williams was Kentucky’s best all-around threat. The running back already had eight catches for 90 yards this season. He is also the team’s primary kick returner and averages 30 yards per return.

With Williams out of the lineup, the Wildcats have three capable running back that already split time in the backfield. Sophomore JoJo Kemp, junior Braylon Heard and freshman Mikel Horton will continue to rotate at running back against the Bulldogs’ talented defensive front.

On special teams, sophomore cornerback J.D. Harmon is Williams’ likely replacement as the team’s top kicker returner. Harmon returned two kicks this season for 53 yards.

Anytime the No. 1 team in the country comes to town, the underdog needs all the help it can get to potentially pull off an upset. Unfortunately for Kentucky, one of the Wildcats’ most explosive players isn’t available, and they’ll have to adjust.

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Iowa suspends starting LB after alcohol-related incident

Indiana v Iowa

Iowa’s on a bye this weekend, but the Hawkeyes still managed to find a way to make headlines.

In a press release, UI announced that Reggie Spearman has been suspended from the football program for at least one game.  The release stated that the linebacker was cited for an alcohol-related offense early Saturday morning.

Just what the specific citation was wasn’t detailed.

“I was disappointed to hear of the charges against Reggie,” said head coach Kirk Ferentz in a statement. “Reggie will face a minimum one-game suspension, as well as other consequences within the program. We will work with authorities in gathering all the facts. Reggie will go through the UI Student Athlete Code of Conduct process and we will move forward from there.”

The suspension means Spearman will miss at least the Nov. 1 game against Northwestern.

Spearman has started all seven games for the 5-2 Hawkeyes this season. He’s currently tied for seventh in tackles with 34.

UPDATED 2:13 p.m. ET: According to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Spearman was charged with operating while intoxicated after being pulled over shortly after midnight local time.

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Fat guy TD pass to long-snapper? God bless Arkansas

Bret Bielema

I can now, officially, die a happy and contented man.

In the second quarter of Arkansas’ game against UAB this afternoon, arguably the greatest touchdown in the history of college football — or any level of football for that matter — was scored as Sebastian Tretola tossed a six-yard “strike” to Alan D’Appollonio.  The greatness lies in the particulars: Tretola is a 350-pound offensive guard, while D’Appollonio is a long-snapper by trade.

Perhaps the best part?  Tretola was lined up in the shotgun.  The second-best part?  Tretola striking the Heisman pose after the catch.

Below is the video.  Soak in its greatness in and enjoy.

 

God bless Tretola.  And God bless Bret Bielema for bringing that play into our collective lives.  We’re all forever in your debt.

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Kansas State ahead but letting Texas hang around

DeMarcus Robinson

Kansas State played a clean half of football, but has struggled to bury Texas in the first half. With some tough defense pulling through in key situations, Texas has managed to get to halftime only trailing 13-0 on the road.

Texas was called for six penalties in the first half, while Kansas State avoided giving officials a reason to throw a penalty flag. There have been no turnovers in the game as well. This all seems to play in Kansas State’s favor as they try to stay in first place in Big 12 play. The offense could use a little more in the second half though, just to deliver a knockout punch to the visiting Longhorns.

Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes has completed just six of 16 pass attempts for 40 yards. Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray each have 18 rushing yards for the Longhorns, and Swoops has added 16 more yards on the ground. Texas just cannot get an edge in the field position game. Texas went three-and-out three times in the first half and has had to punt the ball away each of their six first-half possessions.

Kansas State has been mildly better for much of the half. Both of the first two possessions for Kansas State had to settle for field goals inside the red zone, and then the Wildcats had to punt on their next two possessions after losing a total of 14 yards combined. Kansas State did break through with a touchdown before the half with a 12-play drive ending with DeMarcus Robinson scoring from three yards out for a 13-0 lead.

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